Organize your files in Smart Folders – smarter than the Finder


The younger user generation that grew up with iOS and Android might consider my statement weird, but there are three indispensable basics for personal organizer apps:

The Chikoo app can organize freely selected files from all of your folders, but if you store your files wisely, the app adheres to the three basics. So with Chikoo you have the best possible approach to organize your data on a Mac.
This article reviews Chikoo version 1.1  [1].

What the does

The Chikoo app provides lists of your files on a Mac to sort, search, filter, comment, and tag your data. It's not shortness that the appearance of Chikoo is very similar to a list of files in the Finder.
With a sidebar that provides sublists and filters its design is rational. It doesn't need to be different from the common mp3-library style  (and indeed in its core Chikoo is a SQLite database).
The features make widely use of Core Services of the macOS (the file's standard attributes and the Smart Folders service). I appreciate that. It is clarity what users want. – And this way Chikoo can be (could be) an extended version of the Finder for the most important data folders on your Mac:

Chikoo screen shot


When you import an entire folder Chikoo lists all files in it, including those of subfolders. You can not only view and sort by all file attributes (Date Modified, Size etc.), you can add as many comment (tag) columns as you need  (click the image above).
What separates Chikoo from all the other notes and wiki apps ( see list at the bottom) is the ability to access the file system and to open a file with the appropriate editor (via Finder or

What the not does

1.  There is no button 'Open with..' (resp. 'Edit file..')

For example, when I double-click a html file in Chikoo, the file opens in the browser. But what if I want to edit the file?
To use first the 'Show in Finder' command and there the 'Open with..' command is stupid. The best solution woud be to have an Edit file.. button in the Chikoo Toolbar and a specification of the editor in its preferences.

2.  There is no File content search

The application Nottingham 4 (that is also a SQLite database) demonstrates how it could work. The app imports automatically the complete content text of the files into a database field, so the search works not only for file names but also for the content.
Since another notes app Mou  [2] lacks a file organizing and navigating feature, Chikoo (in an advanced version) would be quite a perfect completion for Mou. (For my needs the combination of Chikoo and Mou works already today better than Nottingham – since Mou is both, viewer and editor.)

3.  There is no Strict syncing

I would like to have an option to choose, in which of two basic modes a new Chikoo library works when it is generated:

The Chikoo app in its current state is mainly a mode a) library.  In some cases it tends to the mode b) – but not consequently.
There are commands like 'Import an entire folder' or 'Set up a library folder' – but that doesn't really mean mode b).
When I add afterwards files to the 'library folder' (in the Finder), Chikoo has no proper command to handle it. Instead of having a Sync button I have to add the according records manually, or I have to use the 'Import an entire folder' command again – that gives the same result.  (But, applied multiple times to one folder, the command name sounds odd.)
Reversely, when I move afterwards a file in the Finder from the 'library folder' to a location outside, the Chikoo app accepts that and updates the path (what is correct only in mode-a).
For mode-b I would prefer the following behavior:
When I press a Sync button in the Toolbar (for all files at once) I get e.g. this popup window:

•  Two files have been added in the Finder to the library folder.
•  Three files have been either deleted in the Finder or changed its name/ folder/ subfolder.
The records in the Library will be added/ deleted now accordingly. — Resp. please relocate missing files. (Marked with (!) )
— OK —

Optional instead of a popup window these events should happen silently in the background with a short confirmation 'Synced'.

My verdict

An application like Chikoo represents a lot of coding work and it would be unfair to call it in its current state only a draft. But it appears to me as if it lacks a few steps in development to make it obviously useful and attractive to everyone.

To bind different smart filterings to different folders is in my view this killer feature (besides the ability to search and to associate all sorts of comments to a file).
But for myself I have to admit, as long as Chikoo doesn't sync with its targeted folder with one click and as long as it doesn't search full text in multiple-files mode I give the advantages a miss and stay with the Finder.

Frankly speaking, what Chikoo can do can another app do (except for a broad columns view) easily:  Little Bookmark Box [3]

On hypocritical aims of big players in the industry

Browsing locally through files (in hyperlink style) is cool. For nearly 15 years big IT companies tell us the web technologies and the desktop file system are merging.

But what happens is nothing. For security reasons it's prohibited that web browsers could trigger file events (Open with..).
As long as there is no local File Content Browser that can do both —follow local hyperlinks and open Finder folders [4]/ open other applications— personal organizer apps are all nonsense.
As far as I know the only apps that can do it today are Mou and Quiver (I guess against Apple's policy of 'jailed' applications).

In the end all these hyperlink-based personal organizers can organize themselves but not my stuff. A PC user needs the one single smart-filtered hub to reach his local files, the local folders, the bookmarked websites and services.
It seems JavaScript (perhaps even macOS) is not helpful for that goal.

Addendum:  Nevertheless, checking out the Chikoo software brings an old idea of mine to life again.
Wouldn't it be great if blog writers who write and publish without using online blogging services  (and without content management frameworks on their computer)  could simply use a SQLite-based tool to manage all the pages of their website?
With this idea in mind I separated already back then in my own site the html pages in one folder from the other stuff (like images) in another folder (+ subfolders etc.).
If I could code I could even upload the sqlite file and provide the content search feature online for my blog readers. — Greatest app ever for small web publishers.

Web links  – Personal notes organizers

[1]  In 2017 Apple will change its file system from (30 years old) HFS+ to the new Apple File System (APFS). It's not clear this step will pull the carpet from under Chikoo (the Core Services' File System Attributes of files or the Smart Folders service and savedSearches). Let's hope for the best.
Addition 2021: My concerns have come to pass. Chicoo does not work on macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 12 Monterey. Maintenance is dropped.

[2]  works well with Chikoo since Mou is both, viewer (right) and editor (left) in concurrent display.
mou screen shot
The render engine of Mou accepts a mix of markdown and markup (for some eye candy). I used it from 2011 to 2018.
Since the Mou app isn't maintained anymore I replaced it with MacDown which works in a perfectly identical way.

[3]  OK., it's a misappropriation to use Little Bookmark Box for organizing local files instead of web bookmarks. But it works – at least with my dated version of macOS (10.11) and my dated version of LBB (2.2).
If you paste your local paths in the URL field file:///Users/... instead of http://... you can organize your local files. Even more: if you paste the text content of the file in the Note field, you can full-text search.
Filtering, tagging, categorizing, 'Open with..' – all works perfectly.

[4]  It's useless when the local-only browser provides directory listing of the local file system – and can't trigger to open the various files in the respective default local application.
To get things straight concerning a browser that is able to (local-only) browse files I installed the Coda app on an iPhone. – And –lo and behold– it works. You can run both at the same time, a secure browser for own local files and one for the Internet.
— But for common purposes Coda's internal browser is much too hidden. (And Apple wants it this way.)

[5]  Addition 2018:  With its features to navigate and browse (hyperlink-style) Boostnote did almost manage to outclass my farorite - the combination of Chikoo and Mou - also because Chikoo and Mou have not seen any further development in the last two years.
But Boostnote is sluggish at startup (it's written in JavaScript and uses JSON instaed of SQLite) and its files have cryptic file names.

[6]  TiddlyWiki could be as well the missing link to navigate through all my note files and inventory – if it wouldn't depend on Firefox but provide instead a secured local-only Browser with the ability to open files in their respective default apps  (e.g. in TiddlyWiki clicking a link to a local md file should open the file in the md editor resp. web links should open up in the "Internet-Firefox").

The TiddlyDesktop app could just be that dedicated browser. If I would know JavaScript/ Node.js I guess the links in Tiddlers could be tweaked so the link to a local file provides the RMB menu command Open with.. (e.g. for editing) resp. opens up the file in the local default app. – But I don't and I don't understand why Jeremy Ruston (the main TiddlyWiki developer) narrows the abilities so much (compared to Mou).

It seems the philosophy of TiddlyWiki is this:  Divest the pieces of information of its natural place and order and the users will be dependent on a big amount of JavaScript to find and use them.
I'm not down on JavaScript, and free reordering of informations is the base of modern IT. But to take away intendedly the first and natural (js-free) place and order of a note is needless destruction. It is appropriate for machines but bad for humans and their little personal stuff.
Suitable for humans is this:  a so-called mind palace, the method of loci.

[7]  Addition 2019-02:  For a few weeks I switched to Quiver app. – Quiver is like Mou, but it provides an integrated file management (JSON), a searchable hierarchy of Library/ Notebooks/ Notes/ Cells. Well, it is not what I meant when I demand 'Files and Folders': Quiver hides its file structure as 'Package Contents'.
At least the method of loci works well inside the apps UI  (and in an emergency JSON is human-readable).
Then I switched again.

macdown logo

MacDown is the perfect successor of Mou. It doesn't base on Mou's app code but it provides the same functionality and works on today's Macs.

[8]  Addition:  Allegedly for a higher level of scientific work the method Zettelkasten (Niklas Luhmann) is preferred. But I am not a friend of bypassing the need of well-naming categories and a knowledge system by my own. ('Roam'-like promises are dupery.)